Merry Christmas!

Christmas mantle

Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates!

Somehow, the adults are up earliest in our house today, waiting for the pitter-pat of little feet to begin. I am nursing a wicked case of strep, but 24 hours after starting antibiotics, I have been assured that I’m not contagious (or at least not very contagious) and am okay to attend Christmas dinner. I may not be able to eat it–since I’m still on a smooth diet of yogurt, broth and applesauce–but I can at least smell it.

I’m thankful on holidays to have married into a big family that gets together to celebrate with food, conversation and fellowship. My mother-in-law did a great job teaching all her kids to cook well, which makes potluck occasions all the more special.

On many of those same holidays, I’m equally grateful to be an only child. Family Christmas growing up meant me, my parents and usually a set of grandparents. Sometimes we traveled to Florida to see the grandparents. Other times we stayed home. I didn’t fight with anyone, and I could play imaginative games with my new toys. I’m pretty sure I’m a writer because of all the solitary hours I had as a kid. I learned to fill them with stories and practicing with language, and I still cherish alone time, whether it’s  a stolen hour before the family wakes up, or a trip to a local coffee shop, where I can be alone with my laptop amid clusters of caffeinated strangers.

I am thinking of Florida now, the smell of the pavement after the rain, and how one year I spent my whole winter break trying to describe that smell in a poem. One set of grandparents had a coconut tree, which I loved, and a kumquat tree, which I didn’t. The other had an enormous pink grapefruit tree. They both had fresh oranges. I remember those warm, sunny Christmases, at one house or the other, excited about the beach and looking for shells, excited to open presents, less excited about family dinner, where I was expected to be quiet and proper, a young lady, and I wish I could take my whole family back in time to show them what those holidays were like.

Christmases now are simpler, with my husband’s family, lots of kids and sisters-in-law, no traveling necessary, no fancy dresses required, and soon all those cousins will grow up more than they have grown up already and have lives and traditions and families of their own. These years will be the ones they remember when they are grown, waking up Christmas morning and waiting for their own children to jump out of bed and beg to go see whether Santa came. These years, someday, will be what they miss, and remember, and occasionally misremember, and the cousins will have each other for proof. It was like this at Grandma’s. And this. And this. My proof is a photo of me sitting by myself with a My Little Pony on my grandma’s orangey-yellow shag rug, cut out carefully in a circle, pasted onto a painted wood circle and now hanging on my parents’ Christmas tree.

I am not looking at the camera; I am looking at my new toy. I still remember painting that wood circle. Magenta. I remember what it felt like to turn it over, still sticky, and see that some of the paint had dripped onto the back. I remember worrying I had ruined it. And yet here it is, the metal hanger still set into the wood, the paint drips and my code name “Little Arrow” printed in adult handwriting on the back, the memory of all those warm-weather Christmases brought back by this one small ornament.

About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
This entry was posted in Community, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Merry Christmas!

  1. “I’m pretty sure I’m a writer because of all the solitary hours I had as a kid.” Yup, me, too. My mother always worked, my father had a long commute, and they both had artistic projects on the weekends, so I learned to entertain myself.

    “…a trip to a local coffee shop, where I can be alone with my laptop amid clusters of caffeinated strangers.” There’s a great image in the movie Naked Lunch. It’s a cafe in Tangier (more or less), where Burroughs lived for some time, and it’s full of writers, some locals and some Europeans, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, using a wide variety of typewriters. It’s very cool.

    Have a great holiday. Too bad about the strep (get better soon!), but at least you’re not contagious and can mingle.

    • My parents always had their own projects going, too, so we’d work on things together but separately.

      I bought the book Naked Lunch years ago but never got through it; I should try again or just watch the movie. That sounds like a great scene. Community on the screen.

      • The book and movie are (of necessity) very different. The book is (for a variety of reasons) unfilmable, so Cronenberg (with support and input from Burroughs) created a movie that incorporates both elements from the book and from the story of the writing of the book. They are very different experiences (I always use it as an example of why making a good movie frequently means taking great liberties with the source material). My current blog post links to a contemporaneous review of the book, by the way.

        The movie is worth seeing, though the “community” aspect is balanced with the competitive aspect as well. A fair amount of it involves writers not getting along. 🙂

        Don’t watch it with kids around.

        It also has an incredible score, by Howard Shore (who did the music for the Lord of the Rings movies) and Ornette Coleman (my favorite jazz musician).

  2. emmaburcart says:

    What a great post! Especially nice to read since I am the only one up in the house on this Christmas morning. But now I do want to go to Florida.

    • Merry Christmas, Emma! I am curious whether you did any writing this morning when you were the first one up. I wrote this post and then did a bit of novel work, including playing with my elevator pitch. I feel like if I get that just right, the overall vision will come through in each individual scene.

  3. Maggie says:

    A beautiful post. Merry Christmas, Laura!

  4. 4amWriter says:

    I have strep, too! Oh, the joys of being sick during one of the happiest times of year. I hope you’re feeling better soon. Happy new year! 🙂

  5. Hi Laura,
    I hope you are feeling better! It sounds like you had a lovely Christmas. I really enjoyed reading about the memories you shared. Best wishes for the New Year.

  6. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, Laura and that you’re now feeling better.
    Thanks again for your help with my book and I wish you all the best in the New Year! xxoo

    • I am much better, Maggie! I can’t remember the last time I was so sick on Christmas, which is good, I suppose, and now I’m fully recovered to celebrate the start of 2013.

      It has been great getting to know you this year, reading your book (twice!) and reading your blog. When you do post new thoughts, I’ll come check them out, but I’m glad you’re stepping back in 2013 and refocusing on your life instead of trying to keep up online. It’s a lot, isn’t it?

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